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Personal liability concerns follow recent Supreme Court ruling

The court’s ruling that members of North Carolina’s dental board could be liable for antitrust violations has raised concern among state medical boards.

If a state medical board acts to block competing health care providers such as telemedicine companies or pain-treatment clinics, can the board’s members be liable for antitrust violations?

That’s the question playing out in the wake of a 2015 Supreme Court ruling on North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a case that arose after the dental board sent cease-and-desist letters to nondentists in the state offering services such as tooth whitening. In response, the FTC lodged a complaint that the board’s actions were anticompetitive. The Supreme Court ruled that medical boards whose members are active participants in the market aren’t immune from antitrust litigation unless the board is under state supervision.

Now the Supreme Court ruling is being invoked in a legal battle in the Lone Star State, where telemedicine provider Teladoc has filed a lawsuit protesting the Texas Medical Board’s rule that first-time patients must be seen by a health care professional in person. Teladoc’s lawsuit alleges that the restriction amounts to an antitrust violation on the part of the medical board and its 14 members.

The AOA supports state licensing boards having the ability to discharge their statutory responsibility without interference from the FTC—an agency that lacks jurisdiction over state licensing boards and has no expertise in the professions regulated by state licensing boards. The AOA was among seven associations and boards to submit an amicus brief supporting the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners.

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